My Word for the Year: Balance

I meant to write this in the New Year, maybe that sums up how my year is going so far. I keep exclaiming “How the hell is it February?” — well it’s basically March now, so I’m doing great…

I decided early on that my word for 2019 is BALANCE. I like that it has many connotations and meanings. Balance conjures images of old-school scales and of me on one leg doing yoga. Weirdly, both are what I mean.

The balance I am striving for this year -Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

If you don’t know me, it is probably worth mentioning that I tend to have a lot of plates spinning at one time (which requires a lot of balance!). Last year, I kind of lost myself in an effort to keep everything spinning. While no plates were broken in this process, I think it’s fair to say some where chipped and I got a bit bruised. Hence the need for more of a mindful effort on balance this year.

Here are a few of the things I am working on balancing at the minute:
- my time — between work and rest. Between a part-time job, a PhD and running a social enterprise (and random freelance work and volunteering).
- my relationships — between give and take. Between energising and draining. Between my introverted self and my extroverted self.
- my plans — between the right now and the future. Between living in the moment and having a five year plan. Between wanting to settle down and yearning to be free (in terms of jobs and commitments like mortgages, not my boyfriend — he’s the best).
- my money — between saving and living life. Between earning money and following my passions. Between building a profitable business and building an ethical one.

I’ve been implementing my desire for balance by pushing back and saying no to allow for things that make me happier. This includes saying no to meetings if I know it will put strain on another deadline, and not applying for things unless I’m sure I want them (I have a habit of applying for jobs and schemes, getting them, then deciding I didn’t ever want them — it takes up a lot of time.) I am also trying to do less meetings, and I schedule them all on the day so they don’t eat up all my time. I started feeling like I was always on the tube or the bus going from one meeting to another. I now pick a convenient area to base around for the day (or have two that I switch between at lunch) and ask that people come meet me if possible. I love a face to face meeting, but sometimes a phone call or a Skype is the best option for everyone.

This leads on to another aspect of my balance for the year. Myself and my other half are both in extremely privileged positions of being vaguely digitally nomadic. As in, we both have good jobs and sources of income, we both work in digital fields often from home and often remote from our offices. We both get interesting trips across the world, but we are both completely guilty of taking this for granted and not making the most of it. We are now trying to use this to our advance. When our schedules allow it, we are trying to join each other on trips, add a few extra days and enjoy the opportunity. We have been to Malta so far this year (his work trip) and we just booked to spend a week in San Fran (for me to spend three days at a conference).

I’ve tried to set clear boundaries between my part-time job, my PhD and my business. This has been going well so far and means I am more focused and productive in everything. I also actually enjoy things more, last year my part-time job (which I love) was becoming a source of angst and pain for me. I began to resent it. This year, I am scheduling blocks to focus on my part-time job, and I’m actually really excited to go in for two weeks full time in April. I am find scheduling invaluable to balance, as it allows me to free up a massive amount of brain power. Even if the schedule changes a bit, I am generally feeling on top of things and I know when I am going to be busy so I can be a little bit kinder to myself. I’ve made long-term (ish) plans for the next few months so I can plan when I have time to chill and go on holidays. I book time off in my calendar to do nothing but read and watch Netflix. I’m making time for my hobbies — cooking, baking, cycling and bouldering — which does wonders for my anxiety levels.

The biggest things though are
- asking for help (from my boyfriend, my friends, my boss, my PhD supervisor)
- talking about my stress and worries (un-shockingly lots of other people have similar worries and great advice)
- giving myself a god damn break (it’s not easy)

All of this means I am allowing myself to breathe. If I go for a free drinks, or on a holiday, I am relaxing and no longer thinking of the hundred things I need to do. I no longer have that nasty feeling of wasting time in my tummy all the time. As with everything in life, it’s a work in progress. Now I’m off to practice some yoga (or rewatch the OC for the millionth time, we’ll see).